My Everyday Featuring ... Lori Manry

#1 Share a bit of your story with us.

I grew up in a Christian home, knowing all the stories that make up the Bible and following the religious expectations of faith and morality. I really thought I had God figured out. Then I grew up, married this great guy, became a mother and moved to Uganda. And everything I knew about God and how he loves and what he cares about and how he engages the world  -- it all fell like dust at my feet.  I hardly recognized the God who had always been there. As we inhaled the thick dusty air of Africa, it breathed life into our family. Authentic life. Not the comfortable one we grew accustomed to. Not the clean one I spent hours maintaining. Not the one full of American dreams and self-fulfilling expectations. Not the fast one that left us spinning. No, this life was dirty. Messy with poverty. Broken with countless needs, the real kind, the kind where people die if they’re not met. This life was slow, and sometimes lonely. Because we didn’t fully belong anywhere – not from where we came, nor from where we dwelled. And in the orange soil that made my life and home and children dirty, God exposed my real filth. My materialism. My love for Target (wink wink). My selfishness. My perfectionism. My control. My lack of grace. These weren’t just things I struggled with – they were dictators in the way I lived as a wife and mother; they were hindrances to living a surrendered life.

When people dig through your garbage to find treasures, you can’t help but notice your wastefulness. When you hesitate sharing your imported Jiffy with people who can’t tell it’s so much smoother and sweeter than the peanut butter purchased in a third world country, you question just how generous you really are. When sickness knocks on your door and you fearfully hope that your own child will not succumb {though hundreds of children around you are}, you question the way you love. And when you witness poverty and the begging for food every day for several years, you absolutely question everything you’ve ever purchased and who {or what} you really worship. I felt a godly shame in things nobody else even saw in me. But I saw. And I knew God saw. Slowly and gently, he began a work of grace in me. As I engaged our new world and experienced God differently among a new people and culture, I learned to trust deeper, embrace wider and love more genuine. This is the place I grew up as a mother. The place that bound us together as a family. The place that broadened our perspective and expanded our boundaries. We lived freer from expectations and the constraints of time. We lived dangerously by choosing love over fear. And this place, where life and death and diversity were constant characters in our story, it birthed in me a hope that my children will always listen to the hearts and perspectives of those standing on the other side of the road. That they will love those people, know those people, and walk some roads together. And it was in this exotic place we called home that I fell in love with God all over again. And I was never the same…I left Uganda knowing that I never wanted to cling so tight to who I am right now, that I miss out on becoming who God is shaping me to be. We are no longer missionaries in a foreign land, but we have forever adopted the calling to live intentionally right where we are. To be available to God and his purposes. To be willing to cross boundaries. To be aware of redemptive activity. To be a people who welcome others. To be a family to those who need one. This is the story we want to live into. The story we want our children to tell.

#2 What dreams and/or goals do you have stirring this year?

Hmmm…which dream do I tell? I have big ones like building a little cottage on our land as a haven for young expectant mamas with nowhere to live. Or the one that involves a sweet little girl in Africa that I hope is ours. But the dream that stirs in my heart for right here, right now is a simple one: to know and love the people right around me. I want our family to be really good at that. I want to know our neighbors – the elderly couple across the road and the woman who recently divorced and the two mothers who each have an autistic son. Instagram is a super special place where people are coming together to encourage and inspire one another. Real community is happening in this virtual place. But if we do not notice the people in front of us, if we do not take the time to embrace and welcome those in our midst, we will miss out on the beautiful and broken stories unfolding right before our eyes. The people we can actually reach. The ones we can love with our presence. Those we can serve with our hands. This year, I pray I say yes to those people. I want to have them in my home. I want to respond to their needs. I want to share my resources with them. I want my children to serve them. And more than anything, I just want to know them.

#3 What do you pray over your children?

I love praying for my children. ‘Cause really, who else but their mama will pray for them with the depth of understanding of who they are and who they want to be? My heart spends hours upon hours with my their hearts every day. I tend to them, and they purify me. I feed and nourish them, and they swell my heart. I encourage and admonish them, and they challenge and frustrate me. I hope for them, and they bring me joy. I delight in them, so that one day they will delight in the Father. And so….I like to think my prayers for my children are extra powerful, extra meaningful, extra special. But maybe I’m bias. Here’s the thing though. My prayers for them are not usually private ones spoken behind closed doors. They are prayed out loud, right in the moment of need. Whether it’s conflict between siblings or destructive behavior or a victory in their character or a struggle that hurts or a sin that binds….I try really hard to prayerfully approach their issues. Sometimes this looks like the closing of eyes and the folding of hands. But usually, it’s me simply speaking truth into lies, love into fear, and humility into pride. Those spoken words over my children are living breathing prayers to the One we’re partnering with in raising our babes. And it certainly doesn’t look all spiritual and pretty. There’s usually resistance and pouty faces and tears…from the children AND from me. And it’s very likely the prayers end with some sort of plea for forgiveness from the mother who lost her temper.

#4 This stirring & joining together of women speaking life into our culture is growing and shaping into something powerful. What is your vision for what the future holds as we press forward?

Whether it’s through local communities or social media or global collaboration – I envision women listening and engaging one another’s stories – the broken ones, the beautiful ones, the hurting ones, the struggling ones. These stories have the ability to empower us to live more gracefully, authentically and creatively within our own stories – as we engage our children and love our spouses and serve our friends and love our neighbors. Because good stories do more than just inspire. They do more than make us laugh and cry. They do more than give us hope. They actually empower us into motion and shape our character. This takes everyone being vulnerable. Vulnerability isn’t weakness. It’s the willingness to be shaped by others. To be moved by their realities. Bent by their dreams. Softened by their pain. Strengthened by their hope. And in this telling of our little stories we are able to collectively discern, more fully, God’s story. The one we’re all a part of.

#5 Three instagram moms who inspire you and why?

@mandiejoy is a keeper. She came into motherhood through fostering children. She is now a single mother of two adopted daughters. Her images invite us into her motherhood moments, share wisdom and glorify the Father through every victory and struggle.

@woodsermom because her oldest children are older than mine, which allows me glimpses into a parenting phase I’m approaching. I appreciate the wisdom and positive perspective she brings to motherhood and family.

@starbugs because I appreciate women further down the motherhood journey to watch and learn from. I just really love the way she interacts with her adult children and is still in love with her man.

#6 If you could give us a peek inside your home what image would you share and why?

Well, it’s not inside my home – it’s right outside our back door, but the scene is what I want you to see. I love having people in my home. I love gathering around a table. I’m passionate about living a hospitable life, the kind that makes people feel welcomed and loved and cared for. Our time in Uganda shaped for me a more genuine understanding of what it means to be hospitable. For so long I thought it meant cooking a great meal for people, throwing good parties, keeping a clean house. Nah, I now call those expectations. Hospitality is something deeper. It’s a way of living. And the One who did it best didn’t even have a home on this earth. So regardless of whether you can cook, and no matter the size of your home, and who cares if you’ve cleaned your spaces – we are all called to a life of hospitality. Because true hospitality is having a heart that welcomes, a spirit that invites and a life that is interruptible. I want to be someone who opens my home {and heart} to others.

Be sure and follow @environmentsofgrace on Instagram! You can also keep up with the series by following @kelliandvanessa or #myeverydaymoms